For all its bold architecture and stunning design, the new super hospital on the site of the old Southern General in Govan is living up to its early-bestowed name of the Death Star.
I have some close friends who have been treated there in recent times and have personal experience of a family member who is presently a patient and so have seen more than my fair share of the place over the past few months. First impressions are of a thriving, bustling city-within-a-city but you cannot shake the feeling that the QEUH complex is a monument to sickness rather than a haven of healing.
There is something inescapably gloomy and depressing about our failing health service and sadly the QEUH is the epitome of it, along with the “new Yorkhill” that sits beside the main body of the Death Star. I have spoken to many NHS workers in the place and those who came from the old Southern or the real Yorkhill are not fans of the shiny new speactacular place to say the least. Morale is low and I am aware of people who have quit their jobs rather than adapt to what should be a bright new dawn in healthcare facilities. In particular, ex-Yorkhill personnel lament both the lack of atmosphere and cameraderie as well as a marked decline in healthcare standards. Remember, this is the opinion of people who have been NHS workers for decades.
A casual glance at the papers will tell you all you need to know about an ongoing and deepening crisis in the NHS, one which is exacerbated by bitter politics here in Scotland where the NHS is used as a political football. In addition, anecdotal evidence abounds of the problems the Death Star complex is facing, with shocking standards of care and cleanliness along with staffing issues. The fact that the new hospital was built atop the old one is stupefying when you consider the problems of access, parking and both a sewage farm and scrapyard as near neighbours. Conducive to health and wellbeing? In the same way as a deep-fried Mars Bar, perhaps…
Deeper issues are also in play. Incompetence is being masked and deflected back on to patients and there is a general atmosphere of gloom and despair. Painting buildings bright colours, creating cinemas and having superhero fun days are no substitute for the real business of healing which ought to be taking place. Sadly, our NHS increasingly functions under a paradigm of symptom-treating rather than healing and wellness. There is a cash-splashing culture in some areas while others see people deprived of vital medicines and treatments. When will we learn that ostentatious and showy buildings are not what people need or want? What we want and need is a culture of healing and buildings that reflect that. What we need are doctors who follow the Hippocratic Code and not the hypocritical one.
It’s easy to be a critic and to be negative. But sometimes you just have to be honest and say it like it is. We are being failed by our NHS because we have allowed its culture to be dictated to by Big Pharma and political whores who use the NHS in a manipulative and agenda-driven manner. We have allowed standards to slip to a point where people pursue a career in medicine rather than a vocation. I remember a time when nurses in a ward could tell you the up-to-the-minute condition of patients in their care to an admirable level of detail. Nowadays they are doing well to get your name right. But don’t get me wrong – I still think nurses are the best thing in our health service. They are still underpaid, undervalued and over-extended in the wrong areas.
Far too much over-staffing is evident in certain departments at the Death Star. And far too many taking home good money in non-jobs. Maybe it’s just me but I haven’t met many patients who are satisfied at the levels of care they have received. And I have skin in the game, being a big fan of the old Yorkhill where my eldest daughter received excellent care under real medical professionals. I have also raised a decent amount of cash in my time for the old hospital. Which makes my disappointment with the new one all the harder to bear.
I remember as a boy being painted into the bed by nurses who brooked no nonsense. There were no PS4s or visits by Captain America when I got my tonsils out and no room of my own with a smart tv to watch. Hospital wasn’t fun because it wasn’t meant to be. It seems that in seeking the fun, we have missed the point, which is to get better.
I seriously doubt that many who are healthcare professionals are aware this is the point. And until they are, the Death Star will be just that.